The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is conducting a five-day training to equip personnel with skills and knowledge to respond to their mental health and psychological needs while serving with the mission.
The training on mental health and psychosocial support in peace support operations is organised by the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) in collaboration with the Accra-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, who spoke at the opening ceremony in Mogadishu, outlined the risks and mental health challenges faced by personnel in peacekeeping missions.
“As military and police personnel, exposure to trauma may not be avoidable in a stressful operational environment such as Somalia. We are exposed to violence, death, and destruction, which can negatively affect our mental well-being and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” observed Amb. Souef.
During the training, ATMIS personnel will learn about how violent conflict affects mental health, families, communities and the impact of trauma and post-traumatic stress on peacekeepers and the mission; and how to manage stress while serving in the mission.
Addressing the opening session, Col. Emmanuel Gyadu, the Course Director at the KAIPTC noted that personnel serving in African Union peace support operations such as ATMIS, are often exposed to traumatic events that affect their mental health.
“This mission is one of the toughest across the globe. The negative impact, mentally, socially and psychologically on the citizenry and the participants in this operation cannot be over-emphasised. It is for this reason that the centre has deemed it necessary to bring this course to the doorstep of the mission.”
Amb. Souef who is also the Head of ATMIS, said soldiers who have been exposed to stress and trauma on the battlefield are more likely to develop mental health challenges upon returning home, yet they lack the financial ability to get medical assistance.
He noted that whereas pre-deployment training prepares soldiers for the physical and mental rigours of serving in the mission, post-deployment psycho-social support after serving in the mission will help to address the troops’ mental health needs.
“There is a need for the African Union to formulate guidelines that will ensure the setting up of structures within AU-led peace support operations like ATMIS to provide post-deployment psycho-social support and treatment services to our military and police personnel,” said Amb. Souef.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).